MURFREESBORO — University High’s miraculous comeback ended in an agonizing defeat.
Coming back from a 6-0 deficit, the Lady Bucs dropped a 6-5 decision to Whitwell in the losers’ bracket quarterfinals of the TSSAA Class A state softball tournament.
For the second time in three days at the Murfeesboro Sports Complex, the end came with the tying runner on third in the final inning.
“Being down 6-0 in the sixth inning, they never quit,” UH head coach Keith Jeffers said. “We started hitting and Whitwell changed pitchers. We hit her even better so they changed back in the seventh. We hit the ball really well those last two innings”
University High finished its season 28-15, while the Lady Tigers improved to 24-16.
Taylor Treadway led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a double to spark a four-run rally. She ended up scoring off an error as Sarah Higginbottom, Barrett Wherry and Tanner Horton later contributed RBI singles.
After Belle Bright doubled to start off the seventh, Treadway had a RBI double to move UH within one. She moved to third base on a steal, only to be held on base by a well-played 5-3 ground out. She was then picked off on a 1-5 double play after Ari Ramsaran’s hard-hit ball landed right in the glove of Whitwell’s first baseman.
“Whitwell is a good team, a well-coached team, and their third baseman is awesome,” Jeffers said. “It was disappointing, but at the same time we were one of the last six teams playing in Class A. Only one team gets to go home feeling happy.”
Taking a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning, Whitwell used four straight bunts to force two UH errors and score three runs. The Lady Tigers loaded the bases an inning later and tacked on two more runs for a 6-0 lead.
“We had to bunt to make something happen,” Whitwell head coach Grace Pickett said. “We were having trouble at the plate, so we decided to bunt. The girls executed and then at the end, our defense came through for us.”
Riley Long, who pitched the first five innings and then closed in the seventh, picked up the win. Horton suffered the loss, giving up three hits and four runs (two earned) in the first four innings.
It was the final game for UH seniors Haley Faulkner and Beth Morgan, who accomplished a goal a day earlier when the Lady Bucs won their first ever game at the state tournament.
“The happiest moment was my life was when we won that game,” Faulkner said. “All me and Beth wanted to do was win one, the way we had been killed by the other ones.”
Faulkner, who pitched the final three innings, finished a brilliant prep career 2-for-3 at the plate. She was, however, lamenting the fact she was the next batter up when the final out occured.
“I was up to bat next, thinking this might be last at-bat,” Faulkner said. “It didn’t happen.”
Horton was 3-for-4 to lead UH, which had all nine in the starting lineup reach base at some point in the game. The Lady Bucs outhit the Lady Tigers 11-6 and were literally 60 feet away from a tie game in each of their state losses.
“This was a great year,” Jeffers said. “We were 0-6 at the state tournament and lost our first game. But, that first game we did the same thing, rallied back to be one down with a runner at third. We just came up one run short.”